Awesome Stuff: Battery Power

from the keep-it-charged dept

As someone who often is working "on the go," I've built up my "office in a bag" over time, and one key element has always been making sure I've got power. That means I've always got a portable power strip on me (you make friends at airports quickly) for when there's a scarce power socket around. However, there are plenty of times when there are no outlets available, and over the past few years external batteries have become a big deal. I usually carry two: a bigger one that will power my laptop and a small one for my phone (though the big one can power the phone too). I've tested out a variety of different battery packs over the past few years, always looking for the mythical one that will make me never want for power (expensive lesson learned: no-name brands with impressive stats that ship from China tend to make really crappy batteries). Lately I've been using batteries from Anker, which have been pretty good (and much cheaper than less impressive competitors), though I've been drooling over the Bixnet BP160 with its absolutely insane 153 Watt-hour capacity (more than double nearly all other portable battery packs), though the price, weight and size are all a bit difficult to stomach. Given all that, I do spend a fair amount of time checking out various battery power crowdfunding projects. Here are a few current ones that struck me as interesting for this week's awesome stuff post.
  • First up is the Legion battery pack. It's more or less like a variety of other battery packs for mobile devices (phones, tablets, but not laptops), but they've tried to take it up a notch with a more detailed LED display and much more actual intelligence, telling you how long you have left, how long it will take to charge and a variety of other nice-to-have features. They have two models -- a 5500 mAh one and an 11000 mAh one. That's right in line with a variety of other battery packs on the market.
    The pricing on the two different sizes seems somewhat higher than some competitors (such as the Anker ones I've been using), so this is marketed towards people who really value the "smarter" nature of this battery pack and the info it conveys (or people who aren't as aware of cheaper, less smart, battery packs). Still, looks like it could be cool. As I write this, they're right around hitting their target, so this will definitely be funded.
  • Next up, we've got Synergy, which describes itself as "the world's best wireless smartphone charger." I will grant them that it's pretty sleek and creative -- really taking a different approach on a wireless charger -- and actually making it something cool. It's a wireless charger with a magnet connector, built into a sleekly designed colorful stand that serves as both a bedside/desktop stand and a windshield mounted stand (you can easily move it from one to the other). And it can even perform a bunch of tasks the second you connect it. So, for example, pop your phone on to the charger in the car and it will automatically open your navigation program, or connect it bedside, and it'll open your alarm clock. There are a lot of nice design touches, and watching the video helps explain it:
    The creators of this are very ambitious with the target funding, though, seeking $150,000. They're at about $20,000 with a little less than 4 weeks to go, which means they still have a big hill to climb. One stumbling block may be the price. Even at the early bird price of $75 it makes me wonder if it's really worth it for a charger, even one as cool as this. Wireless charging is cool, but plugging your device in isn't that annoying...
  • Then there's the JuiceBee, which is a combo small portable battery backup and wall charger in a single unit. I find their marketing to be a little questionable, since they claim they're the first such product... but their Kickstarter campaign came about a week after a very similar project, the Fluxmob Bolt, closed. Still, the JuiceBee looks well-designed and for people looking for an all-in-one solution for both the wall charger and a small portable battery backup for a phone, it could be nice.
    These guys are looking for $50,000 and are about a third of the way there with over a month to go. Seems likely that they'll squeak by the target. Once again, the pricing strikes me as a bit high if it's just the battery pack you're looking at, but for people who value the combo nature, it could be worth it.
  • Finally, we've got WaveJuice, which sort of combines two of the above ideas: it's a small portable battery pack for a phone, but using wireless charging. The idea is that rather than fiddle with a wire to connect the battery to the phone, you can just plop the phone next to the battery (on a table? in your pocket?). It definitely makes it a lot more convenient, and a lack of wires is definitely nice if you're trying to keep your stuff organized. Though, I have to admit that their video "hypothetical" of a "first date romantic dinner" is laughably ridiculous (assuming, first, that you'd put your phone on the table during such a date and that you'd wrap the cable around your wine glass...).
    These guys have a more modest (than most of these other projects) goal of just $10,000, and have about $2,000 committed with a month left to go. Again, the pricing on this one strikes me as a little high, but I seem to be saying that about all of the products mentioned today, so perhaps I'm not the actual target market.
That's it for this week. Hope that whatever you do this weekend, you've got enough power.

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  1. identicon
    aerilus, 27 Jul 2013 @ 12:35pm

    most of these are powered by 18650 cells, the same cells that are in laptop battery packs. when laptop battereis go bad ussually it is only one or two cells that are bad My guess is this is a result of how they charge and discharge where the first two cells on the circuit get the majortiy or use kind of like first gear in a car. you always have to go past of to get to higher gears even of you never reach gear 5. 18650s are relatively cheap retial as well. you can get them with or without protective circuits. protective circuits are ussually built into the electronics they power like flashlights. I have built up a good supply of these and haven't found a use for them other than the totally awesome shiningbeam and jetbeam flashlights. what i have been looking into recently is a battery pack that is powered by removable 18650s rather than one that has the battereis built in which would allow me to carry as much power as i could carry. there a a few options most are chinese junk but as you point out the problem with there power packs is the batteries they use and if you can supply your own then alot of the problem is eliminated. this is what i am looking at now id-/161060670972?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item257ff6cdfc, for jus tusb 5v 2a there are of course other options that do 19v for laptops. such as ne-/261222497992?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&var=&hash=item3cd212fec8. I havent found a model that is better made yet but am very interested in the concept as it recycles batteries allows modularity and doesn't tie you down to a very expensive integrated battey pack. I look at it as having the same properties as the android versus Iphone debate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    James Sandwitch, 28 Jul 2013 @ 4:10am

    These Battery Devices Not Needed

    Since I have been flying (1999) with a laptop and now only a smartphone, I have never needed a third party power pack. The reason is I don't buy devices that don't have replaceable batteries. These axillary power supplies always weigh more and don't last as long as original batteries. I learned that in the pre-smartphone days when I was using a Sanza Fuze MP3 player. Today, I just carry two extra feather weight replacement batteries and a wall plug for eight.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    SteveSi, 28 Jul 2013 @ 9:37am

    Battery Packs

    The problem with battery packs is not that the first few go bad, the problem is that the 18650 batteries are not matched.
    Each cell can be graded and matched. To make a good battery pack you need to have the cells all meet the same grade so that they all charge/discharge at the same rate and produce the same voltage. The better the matching the more you pay. Just buying 9 cells and wiring them together is not going to be any better than the laptop manufacturers as once one or two cells start to degrade before the others, the whole pack starts to go downhill quickly. They are not bad cells, they just charge/discharge differently. Good battery pack suppliers can use matched cells but these cost more...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    art guerrilla (profile), 28 Jul 2013 @ 1:03pm

    semi on topic...

    got a new drill/driver set a couple months back, and the difference between the ability to hold a charge, and how much power it has from the 'old' batteries on the same brand drill/driver, and the new lithium-ion ones is INCREDIBLE...

    (in fact, got them 'cause new lithium-ions would fit old drill/driver bodies too, so didn't have to junk old tools...)

    i hate to sound like a shill (not mentioning brand, which i'm very happy with), but i have been blown away by the difference...

    old batteries fully charged would hardly last 3-4 days if they sat out in the shed; lithium-ion ones will last for MONTHS after charging and sitting out in the shed, and still have the *oomph* to get work done...

    (mind you, it is not like it is a fresh charge, ready to drill a hundred holes through 4" oak, but it has enough juice to get a handful of tasks done, then set it aside, and it will still have enough juice weeks later to do some more...)

    i'm not easy to impress, but i've gotta say the new, half-the size, but twice the power lithium-ions are pretty impressive performers...

    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    aerilus, 28 Jul 2013 @ 1:05pm

    Re: Battery Packs

    I question this as when I open up the battery packs all the batteries seem to be of the same manufacture. although the ar enot labeled I open up one and they are all have the same shade of wrapper. my assumption is that say dell ordered 3000 cells those cell all came from the same assembly line one after the other. they all have the same amp capacity. what i do see is that the cell are paired with lead going back to the control board for every two batteries. now unless that control board has code in it to use a different set of batteries everytime the batteries start to disaipate after a charge cycle (hell if i know but I doubt it) then if you leave your laptop plugged in most of the time those same two batteries are going to be the first to dissipate every time the laptop is unplugged or even just dissipating to 99% through natural dissipation. My experience opening these things up has been that 4-5 batteries will be at the same voltage usually around 3.0 to 4.0 and one or two will register 1V or less. from what I can find on the internet lithium ion batteries should not be discharged past 3.0 volts and all of the flashlights with protection cells in them stop discharge at 3.0 volts. that 1-2 batteries whose voltage is significantly different from the others will also not charge on a charger. all this is just what i have observed and I don't really have any background here. If you have a source I would love to read it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Ninja (profile), 29 Jul 2013 @ 5:08am

    I use an external battery pack for my phone (it can give up to 80% of the battery charge) and I'm thinking of getting a second external pack I saw earlier simply because Galaxy S3 uses shitloads of battery if you use it at full power. I don't see the need of any extra juice for a notebook though since the phone already replaces the notebook on a lot of tasks.

    However I do have one extension cord, 3 adapters and 1 T adapter (3 plugs in one outlet). Those are an absolute need =/

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Dominic Carter, 29 Jul 2013 @ 5:56am

    About WaveJuice

    I think the last one, WaveJuice, is actually a good idea.

    Wireless chargers alone are actually quite stupid because you still need to connect them with a wire to a home plug or a 5V supply, which means it's not wireless and I can't use that when I go out.

    Combining the wireless charger with battery packs is actually a smart idea. At least it sounds it's really wireless to me(except the time you charge the battery packs itself).

    For the price... I don't think it's expensive neither.. The samsung official wireless charger cost $49.99 and a standard 18650 8000mAh battery bank is around $30, which is around $80 in total... but they sell it at $65 only (early birds). But of course, they are not a big brand like Samsung. But I don't care about the brand too much as long as it works fine.

    Also, they use Li-Po battery instead of the 18650 batteries. As I know, Li-Po battery is a bit higher in cost but lighter and a bit safer to use. So I really think that worth the price.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    web site, 31 Jul 2013 @ 12:49pm

    Battery Power

    Iím concerned about the Wifi problems you mentioned; this seems like quite a big design flaw when the whole point of a MBA is the ultraportable, take-me-anywhere-thereís-wifi ethos.
    Is it just the difference between one pip on the signal strength meter or is it greater than that? If you could elaborate for clarity that would be great.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Aug 2013 @ 9:50am

    Want to see how much Mike is scared of criticism? Don't believe that he's trying to block my posts?

    Type to post the following phrase: And he ** knows it.

    But remove the ** before posting.

    Mike is sending that phrase to the spam filter because I use it to criticize him. Try it yourself. You will see how desperate he is. It's hilarious.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Aug 2013 @ 9:50am

    And you know it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Aug 2013 @ 9:50am

    Absolute bullshit. And you know it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    sds (profile), 16 Aug 2013 @ 6:35pm

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    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    The Control Group (profile), 19 Aug 2013 @ 3:32pm

    Battery Power Behind the Times

    If battery power increased each year at the same rate other computer tech improved, we'd have batteries for devices that lasted more than 8 hours unplugged on the regular.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Frank Nurock, 21 Nov 2013 @ 10:05pm

    Battery Research

    Presently lithium-ion batteries are simple and free from harm, but they also have their restraints. There's a great deal of research going on to find a less bulky replacement material.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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